Threatened by Eliot Schrefer [ website | tweet ]
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Africa, orphan, adventure, companionship, chimpanzees, tragedy
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)
Summary: Luc is intrigued by the Professor when he first bumps into him at work. Despite a “misunderstanding”, he takes Luc under his wing as he hopes to study chimps in their natural habitat — the jungle.
At the end of 2014, I fell unexpectedly in love with Eliot Schrefer’s Endangered about a young girl on the run with a bonobo when a violent attack occurs in the Congo. Endangered challenged me; I was instantly out of my comfort zone, knowing next to nothing about the Congo, not even knowing how to pronounce bonobos, much less know what they look like. I didn’t think it was possible to connect so emotionally to a book about a girl, an animal, and a war. But I did. The story was about motherhood, bravery, and connection that went beyond human or animal.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Threatened turned out to be a totally different book. I mean, it couldn’t BE the same book so this is really a positive thing because once again Schrefer placed me into an unknown environment with absolutely no idea how it would all end.
One difference? Urgency. A attack is a pretty huge driving force in any book and without it, Threatened read a little slower. Main character Luc is an orphan, living with a guy I could only picture as Fagin from Oliver!. This “gentleman” is not a saint who cares for lost boys but instead takes whatever money they have, keeps track of their “debt”, and allows them to live in the barest of conditions. Miraculously, Luc makes his exit with the help of a visiting professor. Even though Luc tries to steal for him, “Prof” pays off his debt and takes him on as his assistant as he studies chimps in the jungle.
For the first time in a long time, Luc has someone who is investing in him. Teaching, talking, observing. Luc feels possibility in his kinship with Prof, and starts to look beyond the life he thought he knew before. (How his family died, the legend of the “mock man” a.k.a. the chimps.) When it seems like he couldn’t be tested any more, something happens that changes the course of the story and his past threatens to hurt him once again.
Slowly but surely his companions become two chimps: Mango and Drummer. Their relationships are tentative and, sometimes, frustrating but their time in the jungle, learning to survive, brings them closer together and once again, the line between human and animal are blurred as this connection between them is fused.
As Luc assimilates to life in the jungle, I wondered if this would be his life for good. I wondered if he would have the opportunity to befriend other humans. Can the chimps who so obviously care for him make up for the family he lost? Schrefer convinces me, time and time again, that if we are patient, kind, and compassionate that any of these relationships are a possibility. I am amazed how much he can convey between Luc and the chimps because, as you may have guessed, no dialogue is spoken. Just movements, action, and Luc’s thoughts.
If you are looking to try something completely new and connect to this genre in a whole new way, I can’t recommend Schrefer’s books enough. He is a writer who opens me up to brand new ideas and forces me to really listen to the world beyond the city I live in and the world I think I know.